The HEC Affairs Dr Yousaf Alamgirian


ISLAMABAD , APRIL 13 : The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has turned into another example of bad governance due to many reasons. It has unfortunately gone through many phases of experiments in the hands of different tenures. HEC was once a University Grants Commission, established in 1974   with the mandate of funding, overseeing, regulating and accrediting the higher education institutions. During Musharraf rule, its name was changed into HEC and Dr Atta urRehman became its Chairman in 2002.

He evolved HEC into modern lines. New avenues in the research sector were introduced. Numerous scholarships were announced and hundreds of research scholars were sent abroad for PhD and post-doctorate level research. When Musharraf left, the new government put cut on the funds of HEC and many of the research scholars who were busy in research abroad were caught in the doldrums because of not issuance of the rest of the instalments in time. Many of them have to work to meet their left out charges and a number of them came back without completing their research and degrees.

Dr JavaidLaghari was the second chairman from 2009 to 2013. He unearthed the fake degrees of politicians and refused to accept any pressure on this issue. He was replaced by Dr Mukhtar Ahmed. Dr Tariq Banuri became the fourth chairman of HEC in November 2018 for a period of four years.

It is worth mentioning that appointment of chairman HEC is considered equal to the federal minister from protocol point-of-view.  However, chairman HEC enjoys much more powers than that of the federal ministers. He can appoint the staff even in grade 20/ 21on a regular basis. For that, he has to fulfil the formality by calling selection board meeting.    Whereas federal ministers can only appoint people on non-gazetted vacancies because from grade 17 onwards appointments are made through Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) where federal ministers can’t intervene.

The outgoing chairmanHEC however used this power only a few days before his removal. Keeping in view the ill intentions and favouritism it is a need of the hour that recruitment in autonomous bodies should also be made through FPSC. Resolution could be passed through parliament or the president can issue the ordinance. This will only be done when any government would like to ensure merit and transparency in the recruitments.

This is major trauma in our country that policies of the institutions are not permanent. Overnight changes are made in the policies. Indeed, governments must not interfere in the affairs of the organisations which are protected legally and constitutionally. This cover allows them to perform with full freedom. Nevertheless if govt. sees that some specific person or institution is going beyond its limitations and it is harming the organisation then options are alwaysthere to mend things.

During the last few years several untoward changes were made in higher education. If we take the example of PhD course only, HEC has notified that in future the students will be able to go for PhD only attaining the BS degree. M.Phil. course will be abolished. Matter of the fact is the MPhil degree was very useful in terms that researcher were taught new research techniques before they start PhD course work and research. Whereas BS level is not that mature level to do research work of PhD level. However, if new PhD policies are implemented as it is what will be the fate of the thousands of research scholars who have done MPhil? There should be an independent body that approves certain education policies undertaken by HEC sort of organisations.

Outgoing chairman Mr.Tariq Banuri may be a very upright and honest person but few facts, however, prove that he has certain motives and agenda to fulfil during his tenure that’s why when he came to know that government has brought an ordinanceto cut his tenure, he immediately called the selection board to appoint people on senior-level appointments mostly advisors and DGs in grade 21 and 20 respectively. A report published in the newspaper says that “A statement issued by Officers Welfare Association (OWA) HEC said that the officers and staff of HEC welcome the decision of the Federal Government to remove the Chairman HEC. The statement alleged that after the decision of his removal by the federal government, the Chairman HEC called the meeting of the selection board for selection of his blue-eyed/favourite individuals on the position of 12 regular DGs in grade 20, advisors in Grade 21, four positions on MP-1, and two positions of MP-II and MP-III. It said that the HEC employees showed grave concerns over calling the Selection Board in haste in violation of the HEC Recruitment Policy and Rules. The HEC Employees demanded the Prime Minister of Pakistan (who is also the controlling Authority of HEC) to stop the Chairman from holding the illegal selection board, especially when NAB has already initiated an inquiry about illegal appointment of dozen of consultants”.

Such reports reflect dubious intentions on the part of the outgoing chairman. Uprightness and high moral values demand that if the chairman was removed he should have relinquished by allowing the next chairman/competent authority to do the brainstorming, get the applications shortlisted on merit and call the selection board accordingly to select the competent and professional candidates for very senior level appointments. The things done in haste also put questions on the working of HEC and the weakness of the state which could not interfere to stop the loot sale of the recruitments.

There is a need to understand that HEC is a national organisation and not a personal property of any of the chairmen. NAB/FIA should intervene and ascertain the level of misappropriation made in recruitments.  If all the candidates selected for the appointments, fulfil the criterion they should be allowed to work otherwise recruitments made in haste be cancelled and documents of all the candidates who applied for different vacancies be reviewed and eligiblecandidates be called for interviews. There must be many candidates who qualify the given criterion but were not called for interviews.

However, it is not the first time when any government has put a cut on the duration of tenure of any head of the organisation. During the Musharraf era tenure of the then chairman FPSC JamshedGulzarKianiwas decreased from 5 years to three years. And he had to relinquish from the duty. Now President of Pakistan has issued an ordinance to decrease the tenure of the HEC chairman.

Nonetheless, tussles are obviously not good for the institutions especially which are related to education as education is the only influential road towards the future of the country. What future will our nation have, depends upon the policies, undergoing now. We all have to be a bit more calculated, careful and honest when it comes to the issue of nation and state. The HEC is a precious institution of the state, so, the responsibility lies with the state to save this organization from kakistocracy and take measures to prevent it from becoming a personal estate of the people sitting at the helm of affairs. Therefore, viable solutions are needed because tussles never work, they simply ruin.